Saturday, May 28, 2011

Poison in the Blood, The Memoirs of Lucrezia Borgia by M.G. Scarsbrook.


Italy in Books - Reading Challenge 2011

  • Paperback: 267 pages
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Publisher: Amazon Digital Services 2011
  • Source: eBook provided by the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
  • Review Quote: "Anyone who enjoys Medieval Italy, love, betrayal and a strong, resourceful heroine on a knife edge, will enjoy this well researched and well written book." Historical Novel Review


The May post with a list of books that the other people taking part are reading this month has already been posted. May Reviews

Until fairly recently the only historical novels I read on any sort of regular basis were those of Philippa Gregory but thanks to LindyLouMac's Book Reviews and the opportunity to review some other historical writers my horizons have been expanded. I have always considered my tastes very eclectic but am nowadays more likely to consider reading this genre, than I have been for years. With the themes of the stories based on real life characters it can be an interesting way to learn a little history. I admit to knowing very little about the historical background surrounding Lucrezia Borgia before reading this novel, so this easy and quick read was a pleasurable way to learn a little more about her.

Set in Renaissance Rome in 1497 it also was a good choice for my May entry for the Italy in Books - Reading Challenge 2011 The daughter of Pope Alexander VI, Lucrezia Borgia leads a sheltered life amongst the glamour of the Vatican City. Yet after a brutal killing shocks the city, she learns that all is not as it seems and that her father’s court holds dark secrets. She discovers that her own brother, Cesare and father are willing to commit murder to protect their own lifestyle and love of power.

Written as a memoir narrated by Lucrezia in the first person the blend of fiction and historical fact makes her come alive on the pages as she relates to us the intrigue and tragedy of her fathers court. There is no doubt in my mind that Pope Alexander VI was a nasty and brutal man, I disliked his character immensely. Even I knew of the historical connections of the Borgia family to poison, plus the title of the book so it was no surprise that the poison aspect brings the suspense to a story which I recommend to fans of historical novels looking for a quick read.

M.G. Scarsbrook

M.G. Scarsbrook

The biographical information and photograph included here are courtesy of the authors Goodreads profile

Matthew Scarsbrook was born in Vancouver, Canada in 1981 to British parents and he has spent most of his life in England although he has studied in the USA and Canada as well as Great Britain. He is now living in Southern California. For the adaptation of his book The Marlowe Conspiracy into a script he recently won Writers On The Storm Screenwriting Contest, out of 1000 entries.

He is author of the historical suspense novels The Marlowe Conspiracy and Poison In The Blood: The Memoirs of Lucrezia Borgia.
He is also the editor of several nonfiction collections:
The Life & Legend Of Lucrezia Borgia
The Life & Complete Works Of Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus

M.G. Scarsbrook's Blog

I found this interesting article written by the author that he invites us to share and enjoy, taking him at his word I am reproducing the post here as it makes for an interesting background introduction to the novel

Lucrezia Borgia: The Most Evil Woman In History… Or The Most Wronged?
By M. G. Scarsbrook

Once described as the ‘greatest whore there ever was in Rome’, the legend of Lucrezia Borgia has long captivated people for centuries with wild accounts of her crimes. Some have called her a poisoner, an evil seductress, a femme fatale, and many artists have portrayed her negatively in books, plays, and operas.

But who was Lucrezia exactly? Did she really deserve her poor reputation?

In 1492, when Lucrezia Borgia was still a young noblewoman, her father became Pope Alexander VI and raised her family into one of the most powerful forces in Renaissance Italy. Known for his ruthless ambition, Alexander VI immediately started to eliminate all political enemies in his path, while also elevating his children – including the cruel and clever Cesare Borgia – to prestigious positions within the church and state.

The reign of the Borgias swiftly became the most scandalous era in papal history, marked by constant wars, assassinations, murder, unbridled extravagance, debauchery and allegations of incest. Many political rivals to the Borgias were stabbed, strangled, or poisoned, including cardinals, ambassadors, and the barons of prominent roman families. It was claimed the Borgias dispatched many of their enemies with a custom-made poison called ‘Cantarella’. Lucrezia herself was said to possess a ring with a tiny poison capsule which she used to secretly empty venom into drinks at banquets.

An interesting legend… but is it true?

Probably not. Almost no one in her own time accused Lucrezia of the plots and killings attributed to her family. Nor is there any historical evidence to suggest Lucrezia ever participated in the crimes of Cesare and Alexander. Her contemporaries in Rome merely felt her reputation was tarnished by tales of incest and promiscuity – unlikely allegations made by enemies of the Borgias.

In reality, during her tumultuous life, Lucrezia managed to repair her damaged reputation. After her father died in 1503, and her brother was soon imprisoned, Lucrezia was no longer used as a pawn to increase the power of the House of Borgia. Instead, she left Rome and married a Duke in the distant lands of Ferrara, quickly settling into her new role as a Duchess. Over time, she reinvented herself as a generous patron of the arts, a loving mother of seven children, and a kind benefactor of many charities. By her death in 1519, many people mourned her loss and she was buried with great honor in the highest church in Ferrara, the disgraceful allegations from her past now long forgotten.

This is the story I explore in my latest novel, Poison In The Blood: The Memoirs of Lucrezia Borgia. Set in Renaissance Rome, during the height of Borgia power, my novel follows Lucrezia’s struggle to escape her dangerous family before they destroy her life forever. After discovering that her new husband is next to die, Lucrezia must help him flee the city before the assassins strike. But as tragedy looms ever closer, and her plans gradually, fail, she finds herself confronting an enemy far more sinister than she ever imagined…

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I also post these ‘Italy in Books’ reviews on my other blog

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Perfection by Julie Metz




  • Paperback: 342 pages
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Publisher: Voice 2009
  • Source: Purchased Oxfam Bookshop in UK
  • Review Quote: ‘A visual standout, Metz brings refreshing candour to a startling painful tale.’


I have absolutely no idea why this book has so many good reviews, mind you it does seem to have lots of bad ones as well. Maybe if I had read them first I would not have bothered with this tedious, dull read.

I knew it was going to be a memoir about a young woman trying to put her life back together when her husband unexpectedly dies of a heart attack. I also knew that she was going to discover that he had been unfaithful to her, fair enough and very sad, but she carries out a campaign to contact all the women he has been unfaithful with. I just found it difficult to understand why anyone would want to cause themselves such pain, let alone share it with the rest of the world by publishing this memoir!

Perfection is the story of Julie Metz’s personal journey through the chaos of her husbands death and infidelities. She recounts coming to terms  with the painful truths, building a life for herself and her young daughter after widowhood and betrayal. Happiness seems to have been found by her if not ‘Perfection’ 

Maybe she found it cathartic to write this but I certainly did not enjoy reading about the sham of her marriage as she bravely exposes herself to the full glare of the public.  You might have done, do let me know.

Julie Metz

Julie MetzIs a writer, graphic designer, and artist. In addition to Perfection she has written essays and commentary for publications including The New York Times and Glamour  She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Biographical Information is courtesy of the following websites

Julie Metz - Perfection

Julie Metz - Facebook

Perfection by Julie Metz


You may also be interested in this conversation with Julie Metz.

A Conversation with Julie Metz


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Inside The Whale by Jennie Rooney




  • Paperback: 261 pages
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Publisher: Chatto and Windus 2008
  • Source: Gift from another Bookcrosser
  • Review Quote: "Fresh, funny and wise, balancing emotional turmoil with a vivid turn of phrase. Hugely enjoyable’

‘Inside the Whale’  is Jennie Rooney’s first novel and although I read it in just three sessions it was more because it was quick to read with large print and not very long rather than particularly riveting. In fact it took me a little while to decide if I was actually enjoying it as at first it was confusing trying to keep track of the story. When it did all click into place, which it did all rather too conveniently, I had already worked out what was going to happen. So unlikely but as I have often said before fiction is entertainment and the story provides that even if it is rather simplistic. 

Narrated in the first person alternately by the two main protagonists Stevie Stanford and Michael the man she met in 1937. In the summer of 1939 her lover joins the Royal Signals and is sent to fight in WWII in Africa. Set in modern times they are now both elderly and telling their stories of London and Africa during the second world war to the reader, completely unaware of each others existence. Stevie is recently widowed, staying with her daughter and granddaughter, whilst she struggles to mourn for her husband. Michael is dying of cancer in hospital and having already lost the power of speech is trying to convey his life story by writing it down for a caring nursing assistant.  The ending is moving and well written even if unlikely, although maybe not, one never knows!

A romantic novel written with humour and poignancy about a wartime love affair and the long term effects of such a relationship.

Inside the Whale - Jennie Rooney

Jennie Rooney

Jennie Rooney was born in 1980 and grew up in Liverpool, Zambia and Bromley. She attended Newstead Wood School in Orpington, before reading History at Cambridge University. She taught English for a while in a primary school in France before training as a solicitor in London and Paris. Her first novel, Inside the Whale, was written during this time and was published by Chatto & Windus in 2008, and was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, the Waterstones New Writer of the Year Award, and was a Richard and Judy Debut Book Club choice. Her second novel, The Opposite of Falling, is also published by Chatto & Windus.
She now lives in West London, where she writes and teaches History and English. She is also a regular creative writing tutor for Skyros Writers' Lab and is a patron of the National Academy of Writing.  She is currently working on her third novel and a screenplay.

Biographical Information and author photo is courtesy of Jennie Rooney - Official Website.

Jennie Rooney’s second novel was published last year.

The Opposite of Falling

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Swallow and The Hummingbird by Santa Montefiore.

                        Copertina anteriore     

  • Paperback: 474 pages
  • Genre: Romantic Fiction
  • Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton 2004 – This edition Hodder Paperback 2007.
  • Source: Purchased Oxfam Bookshop in UK
  • Review Quote: ‘Santa is the new Rosamunde Pilcher’ Victoria Mather, Daily Mail.
  • My Opinion : The above quote is spot on I think especially as Rosamunde Pilcher retired from writing in 2000.

I first took an interest in this author’s writing in 2001 when her first novel Meet Me Under The Umbo Tree was published. I went on to read the next two as they were released The Butterfly Box and The Forget Me Not Sonata.  It was another five years before any more of her books came my way when in 2008 I read two more of her novels  Last Voyage of the Valentina and The Gypsy Madonna.  With this latest one it seems I am still only half way through her novels.   I have two more on my TBR bookshelf and do not think it will be long before I read them as they are the perfect type of novels for summer afternoons reading in the shade.
The setting is England and the Argentine, starting just after the end of WWII when George Bolton returns home to Frognal Point a quiet seaside village in Devon. The sweetheart he left behind before the war, Rita Fairweather has waited patiently for his return, expecting their relationship to continue from where it left off. George though is no longer the boy who went off to war and became a Spitfire pilot, he finds himself unable to settle back into his previous way of life. He decides that he needs to get away for awhile to get over his wartime experiences and departs again to spend a year with relations in Argentina. Rita although disappointed resolves to wait for him in Devon as she feels unable to go with him if they are not yet married. Would you wait for ever for the love of your life? This is what happens to Rita as she keeps her promise to George, he however finds a different life that he enjoys and it is ten years before he returns to England again.
The Swallow and The Hummingbird was Santa’s fourth novel to be published back in 2005, the year after we left the UK to live in Italy so I somehow missed obtaining a copy until I found one at the end of last year. It is three years since I have read one of her novels but this was just as I expected it to be a richly woven tale with a large cast of characters and lots of vivid detail. Recommended for all lovers of romantic fiction, especially fans of Rosamunde Pilcher.

Santa Montefiore was a guest at The Royal Wedding last week so for an author photo I decided to share this one of her on the left and in the blue her sister Tara Palmer Tomkinson.

Santa Montefiore was born Santa Palmer Tomkinson on February 2nd 1970. After studying Spanish and Italian at Exeter University, she went to Argentina, where she spent much of the nineties. She now lives in London with her husband, writer and historian Simon Sebag Montefiore
and two daughters. Her family have been close friends of The Prince of Wales for over three decades.
The following extract is taken from her own Official Website as she describes perfectly the sort of books she writes.
‘With my novels, I hope to carry you away to sunnier shores, while at the same time remind you of all that is wonderful about England.  Above all, they are love stories, because love is more important to me than anything else.  I hope you laugh and cry in equal measure, but most vitally, escape for a while’.
She has eleven published novels to date, the first one published in 2002 and the most recent will be published in July of this year.
  • Meet Me Under The Ombu Tree(2001)
  • The Butterfly Box (2002)
  • The Forget-me-not Sonata (2003)
  • The Swallow and the Hummingbird (2004)
  • The Last Voyage of the Valentina (2005)
  • The Gypsy Madonna (2006)
  • Sea of Lost Love (2007)
  • The French Gardener (2008)
  • The Italian Matchmaker (2009)
  • The Affair (2010)
  • The Mermaid Garden(American title) The House By The Sea. (2011)

Biographical Information is courtesy of the following websites and from the paperback itself.
Wikipedia - Santa Montefiore
Goodreads - Santa Montefiore
Santa Montefiore Official Website
This is a short interesting video of Santa Montefiore talking about herself and her writing do watch if you have 3 minutes to spare.

Meet Author Santa Montefiore  Thanks to
What We're Reading  I have linked this post to the May Reading Linky Party here